Test Driving A Tesla

Elon Musk has taken the world by storm with Tesla. Not only has it become a household name, everyone wants a piece of it. New Zealand is no different. Tesla, whilst a little delayed, has made its way to New Zealand. Between November and December (it still seems to be going at this stage) Tesla undertook an extensive marketing campaign to have their cars at different malls around Auckland. And not just any models, but their Model X, which is valued at $130,000 and Model S, which is valued at $120,000. Their goal with this campaign was to educate as many people about the brand and the functionalities of the car and to get as many people to drive it. I used to believe that you can only test drive a car that you can actually afford so that the sales people aren’t wasting their time. But I was wrong. This is not the case at all. Well, it may have some truth to it.

My curiosity got to me and I couldn’t help but make my way to the display at one such mall whilst I waited for my friends to arrive. The sales person sat down with me and started enquiring about whether a new car was in the cards and at the time it was. However, in no way was there a possibility that I was going to buy a Tesla. My pay grade would not allow for that at all. Regardless, he asked whether I’d like to test drive either of the models or both and excitedly I said yes.

A few days later I got a call from the Tesla (temporary) showroom in Auckland just confirming some details and I was all booked in to test drive the Model S just a couple of weeks later. I was ecstatic. Finally, the day arrived and I made my way to their temporary showroom. After all the necessary obligations and signing of documents, a sales person grabbed the keys to the Model S and accompanied us on the test drive. To be honest, the only requirement for the key for a Tesla is to lock and unlock the door, even if that. I sit in the driver’s seat and the sales person in the seat across from me. He first asks whether the mirrors are well adjusted for my driving and if not I should adjust it. I had to push a ridiculous number of buttons for the side mirrors but we got there in the end. As for the rear view mirror, I adjusted it the old fashioned way.

The next thing he talks me through is the gear and handbrake. Like other cars, Teslas don’t have an orthodox gear situated to the left/right of the driver (depending on where in the world you’re driving). Instead, the Model S has just the one lever behind the wheel, which is used for a number of things, the gear being one of them. The handbrake automatically comes off once the gear is in D (drive). I drive an automatic car and hence I will use those terms. He then talks about the massive display screen and all that can be done using that. First and foremost, a navigation system. But other functionalities include adjusting the aircon, opening or closing the sun roof. Please note: you can open the sun roof to a certain percentage, so if you only want 6% open, that is most definitely a possibility.

After the briefing, I put the gear on D and slowly accelerate. At this point, I’m alerted that someone in the car wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The sales person advised that the sensors are very sensitive, it had sensed my mother’s hand in the middle seat and assumed there was a passenger who had not put their seat belt on. I start driving the Model S and find myself on a busy Auckland street. By far the smoothest car I’ve ever driven. I can see that I’m approaching a traffic light and I need to slow down and stop the vehicle. As soon as I take my foot off the accelerator, the car slows down dramatically and stops within seconds. Basically, in a Tesla, the moment you take your foot of the pedal, it is designed to do so. I believe the shift especially in electric vehicles is to become a one pedal car. To put it simply, if you want to go you push the pedal and if you want to stop you take your foot off. I struggled with this a little bit because I’m very used to slowing down by taking my foot off the accelerator.

There are some really good features in a Tesla that I was educated on. One of which is, that the Model S (well any Tesla really) has sensors that detects everything that’s going on around you. If you’re a rash driver, which I hope you aren’t, and are speeding and are about to collide it will give you warning well in advance, and if you do nothing about it the car will stop automatically. Whilst, this isn’t one of the features we tested during the drive, for obvious reasons, this is quite a good feature to have.

Overall, I can say that driving a Tesla was phenomenal. When the time comes and Teslas are available to rent from different companies for tourists, I would highly recommend it. I, personally, am very scared of driving in other countries mostly because I’ve never done it. I keep telling myself that I don’t know the rules or I make excuses such as the driving side is different but in reality I know how to drive and driving in any country is the same. But I feel that in the future if my budget would allow for it, I would be comfortable renting a Tesla whilst on the road. Whether that becomes a possibility is to be seen.

Until next time,